Here Is a Fox News Reporter Who Doesn't Belong In JailS

Jana Winter, a dogged and capable reporter who writes for Fox News' web site, is being threatened with jail time by an overzealous Colorado judge who wants her to reveal her sources. Not as many people care about this as much as they ought to, which is one of the consequences of working for a nakedly partisan shitshow masquerading as news outlet.

Winter has some estimable law enforcement scoops under her belt. One of them relates to the case of Aurora massacre gunman James Holmes: She was the first to report that, prior to the shooting, Holmes had sent a package "full of details about how he was going to kill people" to a University of Colorado psychiatrist. The judge overseeing Holmes' case, William Sylvester, wasn't happy about that—he had issued a series of gag orders preventing prosecutors, police, and defense attorneys from speaking publicly about the case. Since Winter's story was sourced to "law enforcement sources," Sylvester and Holmes' defense attorneys wants to know who they are.

Winter won't tell him. Nor should she. She potentially faces jail time for refusing to comply with a subpoena demanding her source. When confrontations like this between reporters and prosecutors or judges happen, there tends to be an outcry and circling of the wagons response from the press. There hasn't been a very big one around Winter. One reason for this is that it involves a routine law enforcement leak in a criminal case, and doesn't immediately appear to present any cinematic conflict between a powerful government institution and a lonely reporter. Another is that it's a state judge, and not a federal prosecutor, behind the crusade.

But, as right-wing commenters have taken to pointing out, it's also a little bit because Jana Winter works for Fox News. This is because Fox News has literally created a multi-billion dollar behemoth on the notion that reporters—excuse me, "the MSM"—are treasonous scoundrels and liars who don't deserve the protections of the First Amendment. And because it has cynically and fraudulently used the pretense of journalism as cover for building a GOP messaging operation.

Of course, in order to pull something like that off, not every staffer needs to be a de facto Republican operative. Just the ones in charge. Fox News employs many honorable and talented reporters, many of whom risk their lives to gather news. Winter is one of them. Even when her bosses dispatched her to participate in a calculated hit on Gawker in response to our provocations, she did so fairly and responsibly. The prospect that she may go to jail for doing her job is an outrage. The fact that she has thus far been hung out to dry by a press corps normally quick to cry foul is a direct consequence of the fact that she, and many of her colleagues, have been systematically exploited by Roger Ailes as human shields in their lengthy war on the practice of newsgathering.